In the past two years or so, one of my most popular topics and the one that I've been asked to spend most of my time on is mashups. Notably, this topic seems to be popular across a widely diverse range of my audiences and across many countries and cultures.
My recent audiences have spanned four continents, and included such diverse group as IT professionals and CIO’s; commercial sales executives; military organizations; technology-enabled learning and e-Learning professionals; and higher education professors, deans and ministers. Given all the interest, I thought a short summary of the topic, along with some recent examples, was due. Hence... today’s post.
If mashups (or my views about them) are relatively new to you, you can find more details by searching for “mashup” on the Off Course – On Target site. Some of my previous postings on mashups include:
The main point I try to make (and why it seems so relevant to so many) is that mashups should be thought of as a conceptual model rather than a technology. While the term "mashup" is somewhat new, the concept is neither new nor complex. In simple terms:
A mashup is a unique assembly of bits and pieces from more than one source into a single integrated whole.
Even more simply (and a surprisingly robust metaphor for it) is that mashups are like Lego blocks; you have a lot of small components which can form almost infinite numbers of assemblies to create just about anything you can imagine.
With mashups, the ‘bits and pieces’ or individual Lego blocks are pre-existing things that can come from any source and often from multiple sources. Furthermore, these “bits and pieces” can truly be just about anything and everything, from content to code to hardware to events to teams.
Two things that are accelerating the rise of mashups are what I call MC2 (with apologies to Einstein and others):
MC2 = Mass Contribution multiplied by Mass Customization
Mass contribution and mass customization are part of the deeply pervasive metapattern of mass personalization, which Erik Duval and I refer to as "The Snowflake Effect." All of us are becoming increasingly enabled by mashup technology and the plentiful availability of mashable objects.
We are becoming mashup creators ourselves. Fewer programming skills are required, and many essentially require none, so we can focus on finding and assembling the specific components we want to put together into a unique assembly. You can get a sense of the depth and diversity of mashups by spending a few minutes looking at some of the examples listed by the likes of WebMashup.com.
Perhaps because my audiences who work in information technology (IT), as well those who are CIO’s, have shown such an interest in mashups, I took note of today’s posting (July 23rd, 2007) "A bumper crop of new mashup platforms" by Dion Hinchliffe and his previous posting from May, Mashups: The next major new software development model?. Dion’s blog, Enterprise 2.0, focuses on “leveraging the convergence of IT and the next generation of the Web”. He too makes note of this shift in focus from the current practice of creating “raw components” to creating assemblies instead. In the larger context, I’ve noted that this is also bringing with it a rethinking about the scope of design and how we are all becoming “designers”. As we create these assemblies of solutions to match our unique requirements, context, and situations. we are becoming more involved in design and design related tasks.
Dion provided this diagram which I thought was a good summary of the situation:
He also provided a reference to a recent McKinsey "Web 2.0 in business" survey which noted that 21% of organizations globally said they are using or planning to use mashups. He went on to note that:
“...there appears to be considerable demand for mashups at the enterprise level even though the majority of existing offerings are primarily aimed at the consumer space.”
In other recent news, I saw a good example of the Snowflake Effect and mashups on TV, or perhaps better put, in video content. This example is called Chime.tv and you will find a good summary and even better video coverage on David’s posting "Chime.TV’s subject-based channels cut across Internet video sources with one UI".
Even more apropos to today’s topic of mashups, Chime.TV is but one of the many examples coming out of the recently completed Mashup Camp run by David Berlind and others from Ziff Davis. David posted some of his observations on mashup trends yesterday in his posting Mashup culture shatters crusty, stodgy old approach to business app dev.
Returning now to this idea about mashups as a conceptual model, I want to recommend that you look at these examples and consider how mashups fit into your world and work. Consider that mashups also apply to people! Think for example about putting together a great project team. Ideally you want to be able to find just the right collection and combination of individuals who possess just the right set of skills, knowledge, experience, and attitudes (the Lego blocks) to form a new “assembly” that best matches the needs of the project and the context of the specific situation. Or consider how valuable it will be to be able to find just the right individual(s) to meet and talk with at a conference, in an online chat, or on IM.
Rather than leaving this to serendipity (even as powerful as I believe that to be), imagine a future where you and we collectively can start to increase the probability of finding “just the right” people to create the mashup of individuals you need. To some extent, this is already happening at some “unconference” events and more broadly with the newest “dating technology” whereby changing the context from romantic to professional or other purposes, the exact same technology can be extremely effective at helping you to find the right people to talk with, work with, and meet with.
I’ll continue to keep an eye on mashups and talk more about some specific applications and diversity in future postings. In the meantime, send me some of the ways you are going to mashup your world. This may sound “off course” but it sure is “on target” to improving our overall learning and performance, don’t you think?